By Ann Needle

With next year’s budget successfully voted in at all three Nashoba-member town meetings on Monday, the Nashoba School Committee continued to look toward next school year at their Tuesday meeting.

In a report on school council activity at Nashoba Regional High School, Principal Dr. Parry Graham focused on how the school has been working toward two major goals in its school improvement plan. Student Council Rep. Brendan McMullen outlined some of the steps taken regarding the first goal of better understanding and addressing safety concerns and perceptions. These included talking to the Bolton Police about the possibility of putting in a school resource officer, arranging an upcoming safety presentation for juniors and seniors by the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, and collecting data from other high schools on their safety set-ups.

With the second goal of better identifying and assisting under-performing students, Graham explained how the school is using such tools as paying closer attention to students with Ds or lower on their report cards, and conducting  exit surveys of this year’s seniors.

In other NRHS news, Superintendent Michael Wood paid tribute to this year’s valedictorian, Alex Ablavsky of Bolton, and salutatorian Steven Tang of Stow. Graham also mentioned that Newsweek magazine recently dubbed NRHS the 15th-ranked high school in the state. “I know that these rankings are somewhat arbitrary, but I like to be the bearer of good news,” Graham remarked.

Budget Surplus So Far
In a third-quarter summary of fiscal year 2013, Assistant Superintendent George King reported, “We should close the year with a reasonable surplus, certainly not what we had anticipated, given the times.” King attributed this to surpluses such as the $100,000 under-spending in overall salaries.

However, he also pointed out some deficits, including the almost $34,000 shortage in the snow removal budget, though that could be covered by a possible surplus in the heating oil account. King noted that the high school’s science lab renovation study — approved after the budget was passed — triggered a deficit of more than $186,000 in the contract services line.  However, Wood reminded the Committee that the study was 46% funded by the state.  This could be made up with a vote next month for a transfer between the insurance surplus and the contract line, he said.

There also is spending of almost $342,000 reported in the school choice budget (from students leaving Nashoba for other public schools), something King noted could be paid off from the school choice revolving fund. As of August, the district will begin to reduce the number of incoming school choice students and revenue when the program is closed off to kindergarten through grade 8.

In action items, the Committee voted unanimously to accept Wood’s job evaluation for the year, and to raise his salary for next year by 1.5%, to $164,168. The Committee also voted unanimously to restore the additional $6,400 paid annually to Wood, to be placed in an annuity of his choice. Co-Chair Nancy Federspiel of Bolton noted that Wood passed on accepting the annuity over the past few years as the Nashoba budge was tightened.

A MetroWest Women’s Alliance grant of $2,000 was accepted, with Wood explaining it will be channeled into the high school’s Wellness curriculum and popular self-defense program. Another grant, for $2,641, was accepted from the federal government via the state to add healthy smoothie-type fruit dishes to the high school’s breakfast offerings. When Wood remarked that government regulations prevent the district from officially dubbing these meals “smoothies”, Committee Student Rep. Louise Bennett of Stow quipped, “Will they be called miscellaneous blended fruits?

However, the Committee agreed to postpone its scheduled vote on the agreement between the district and Bolton Police on the school resource officer for NRHS, since Wood said the job description is still being finalized.  Starting in August, the SRO will be a part-time officer assigned to the school from the Bolton Police.